Familiar faces for Royals in Interleague

Familiar faces for Royals in Interleague

Familiar faces for Royals in Interleague
KANSAS CITY - Royals left-hander Bruce Chen sees one disadvantage to Interleague play for a pitcher: Unfamiliarity.

"The more you see a team, you see their tendencies," Chen said.

Last year, when the Arizona Diamondbacks were in Kansas City, Chen was on the disabled list. While Chen has been around for a long time, he hasn't pitched against Arizona since 2002. Now, he'll be facing them on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium in the second game of the Royals' first Interleague series this season.

"I was looking at videos on the Diamondbacks and I don't know a lot of the guys," Chen said. "I think I've only pitched to Willie Bloomquist and Henry Blanco. It's sometimes hard because you don't see them at all. I didn't pitch against the White Sox [last weekend] but I've seen them three times already because we've already played them."

Since its inauguration in 1997, Interleague play has not been particularly kind to the Royals. The Royals have had a winning Interleague record in just four of 15 seasons and split even twice.

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Yet players seem to enjoy the 18 games against National League opponents.

"Every season, everyone takes a peek at the schedule and checks out the teams we're playing in Interleague and some of the new trips and all of that," said second baseman Chris Getz. "It kind of keeps things fresh and fun. And you get a chance to see pitchers hit, which is always interesting and changes the game a little bit."

Getz will get to play for the first time in the stadiums at Pittsburgh and Houston. The other NL road city is St. Louis, part of the home-and-home rivalry with the Cardinals. Those three cities will be where the Royals pitchers will be swinging the bats.

It's a prospect that makes Chen wince, although he's experienced at it with a .144 (17-for-118) average.

"I already know I'm not that good of a hitter," Chen said. "But I can bunt and we're going to work on running the bases and bunting the ball and making sure we can do the little things, so whenever we get put into that situation, it won't be that difficult."

Getz has to grin when the AL pitchers turn hitters.

"I think pitchers are hilarious when they put helmets on," Getz said. "They don't even have to swing, they just look that awkward."

In addition to the Diamondbacks and the Cardinals, Royals fans will have a chance to see the Milwaukee Brewers and Zack Greinke. It's possible that Greinke could face his old team in one of those three games.

Players to watch
Alex Gordon, LF (.332, 9 HRs, 32 RBIs): Of special interest is that six of those homers and 17 RBIs came against state rival St. Louis.
Billy Butler, DH (.299, 5 HRs, 20 RBIs): In the NL cities, Butler is likely to play some first base to keep his bat in the lineup.
Chris Getz, 2B (.326 in 26 games for KC): He seems to rise up for the Cardinals' rivalry, going 8-for-19, .421, against them.
Bruce Chen, SP (3-8, 3.69 ERA in 25 career games): Not much of an Interleague won-lost record but a good ERA for the veteran.

"When they traded Zack Greinke, they said, 'OK, let's trade him to a National League team so we don't have to see him or anything,' " Chen said. "And now we have [Alcides] Escobar and they have Greinke. So it's going to be good. It's good for the fans, good for everyone. And Greinke is such a good pitcher, I'm pretty sure everyone here wants to test themselves and see how good a hitter they are."

Well, maybe.

"I've done that before," Getz said. "Not good."

Certain to appear, though, is another Royals favorite from years gone by: Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran, who is flourishing in his first year with the defending World Series champions.

A look at the Royals in Interleague action:

• Last year: The Royals matched their worst Interleague record ever, 5-13, a low established in 2002. The only series victory was two out of three from the Cubs.

• All-time: Since the beginning in 1997, Interleague play has not been kind to KC. The Royals' overall record is 120-145, including 62-69 at home and 58-76 on the road.

• vs. Diamondbacks, May 18-20: Manager Kirk Gibson, a Royals outfielder late in his career, brings his club back for what he hopes is an encore of their three-game sweep last year at Kauffman Stadium.

• at Pirates, June 8-10: Except for St. Louis, the Royals have played more often at Pittsburgh (15 games, 7-8 record) than any other NL city. Ex-Royals phenom and ex-Rockies manager Clint Hurdle has a young, improving team.

• vs. Brewers, June 12-14: First meeting since the big Greinke trade after the 2010 season. Big question, of course, is will the turn of the Brewers' rotation stop at Greinke in KC? MVP Ryan Braun comes to town and Ned Yost gets to manage against his old club for the first time.

• at Cardinals, June 15-17: Oddly, the Royals have done better in St. Louis (13-14) than against the Cardinals in KC (15-24). It's a no-Albert Pujols, no-Tony La Russa look, but Busch Stadium is still brimming with victories and red-shirted fans. A weekend jaunt for Royals fans.

• at Astros, June 18-20: The Astros, behind up-and-coming hitters Jose Altuve and J.D. Martinez, will play host to the Royals for the last time in Interleague Play. With the Astros moving to the AL West next year, they'll play the Royals each year.

• vs. Cardinals, June 22-24: Since the day the Royals traded Carlos Beltran in 2004, he has been in the NL and has never played in Kauffman Stadium. He'll face the Royals for the first time in St. Louis and, in this series, return to KC for the first time since he left.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.